As the new marching band season begins, it is essential that each rehearsal begins with a period of time dedicated to music fundamentals. (There should be an equal amount of time dedicated to marching & movement fundamentals.) It is ideal if the winds and percussion can do this in separate groups. There are two components to this rehearsal segment – warm-up and the development of individual and ensemble skills. A minimum of 15 to 30 minutes should be allocated, depending on the total amount of rehearsal time. 15 minutes for an hour rehearsal and 20-30 minutes for a 3 hour rehearsal. A daily warm-up at the beginning of every rehearsal also establishes a focused attitude in the players.


Playing an instrument is a physical activity and muscles must be warmed up to be prepared for a vigorous workout. We will focus on the wind section; the percussionists need to follow a similar routine that meets their particular musical needs. There are many approaches that work well (and many that do not.) We will examine some basic concepts and specific exercises.

It is suggested that exercises be memorized and played outside whenever possible. Standing in a large circle is the most effective set-up as each player can be seen and heard. In arcs or rows, those in back do not have the same focus and awareness. This is perhaps psychological but a factor to consider. If other staff members are available, they can float in front of the players and identify any individual problems. Just their presence makes young players focus better.


  1. Start with breathing exercises.
  2. Work progressively from long tones to faster rhythms.
  3. …from slurs to legato to shorter articulations.
  4. …from a comfortable mezzo forte to louder and softer.
  5. …from unison to harmony.
  6. …and most importantly, from low to high range gradually. Although there are many opinions as to whether to start and “anchor” on F or low Bb concert, most young high school brass players tend to pinch when starting on F concert. Further, F concert is a terrible intonation note for the Eb saxophones and one of the least resonant notes for the clarinets. For these reasons, using low Bb concert as the wind section foundation is far preferable for a high school ensemble.


Concepts and specific exercises for individual and ensemble skill development as part of the daily warm-up routine will be discussed in the next Blog Post. What skills are needed? How much time to spend? How to organize them? Stay tuned!
Daily Warm-up & Development by Wayne Markworth is now available from Shadow Lake Music.
For more information and preview of three parts, click here: Daily Warm-up & Development